Mattel adds more diverse Barbies, including dolls with vitiligo and alopecia

In October, Mattel introduced its career of the year doll, Judge Barbie. In addition to giving Barbie another career choice, Mattel has also shifted its focus to Barbie (and Ken’s) physical appearance. In September, the company released a gender-neutral doll. This week, Mattel continued that move of diversifying the bodies of one of the most popular and recognizable toys in the world. They introduced an expanded line that is meant to be more inclusive and representative of the people children see every day:

Barbie is branding itself as the “most diverse doll line” on the market after unveiling a slew of new dolls featuring inclusive hairstyles, skin tones and body types. Mattel on Tuesday revealed a doll with vitiligo, a doll with no hair, and a doll with a darker skin tone and a gold prosthetic limb.

According to Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls, the Barbie Fashionistas line now includes 176 dolls with 8 body types, 35 skin tones and 94 hairstyles, “designed to reflect the world girls see today.”

“For 2020, Barbie is continuing the journey to represent global diversity and inclusivity in the fashion doll aisle by showcasing a multi-dimensional view of beauty and fashion,” a spokesperson for Mattel told CBS News.

To design the doll with vitiligo, an autoimmune condition that causes loss of skin color, Mattel said it worked with a dermatologist to ensure it was accurately represented.

“As we continue to redefine what it means to be a ‘Barbie’ or look like Barbie, offering a doll with vitiligo in our main doll line allows kids to play out even more stories they see in the world around them,” the spokesperson said.

Mattel also released a doll with no hair, which the company said is both meant to inspire girls experiencing hair loss for any reason and to reflect current hair trends. The release comes after Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley revealed this month that she has completely lost her hair due to the condition alopecia.

Last year, then-12-year-old disability activist Jordan Reeves collaborated with Mattel to introduce a doll with a prosthetic limb, which debuted alongside a doll with a wheelchair. Now, that doll will be sold with a darker complexion and a gold prosthetic leg.

[From CBS]

Mattel also introduced Joss, a doll who has hearing loss, and a Ken doll with long hair. In 2017, a doll wearing a hijab was released. I’m glad that Mattel is working to offer dolls that aren’t all tall, slender, leggy blondes with pale skin. I’m especially happy to see a slowly expanding group of dolls that live with various disabilities. I have friends who use wheelchairs, and I’m always glad when companies decide to offer dolls that use wheelchairs, but it has always frustrated me that often, companies stop there. While it would be impossible to offer a doll that represents people with every single illness, disability, or other condition, I always want to say, “There are children who live with disabilities that don’t require wheelchairs.” More children may have just found out what alopecia is because they saw Congresswoman Pressley take off her wig a couple of weeks ago, and so it will make sense to them to see a Barbie doll that doesn’t have hair. These dolls are a great way to start (or continue, I hope) positive conversations around different body types and different lived experiences.

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29 Responses to “Mattel adds more diverse Barbies, including dolls with vitiligo and alopecia”

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  1. Adr1s says:

    I love it, and hopefully will be getting a few of those Kens with long hair to customize them. I change the hair and the clothes of dolls, sometimes the face as well, and dudes are really difficult to find, specially since most have hard plastic hair and sometimes it doesn’t come off, so you’re stuck with whatever hair they got. But this dude? This dude I can customize! Yaaaaas!

  2. Astrid says:

    I feel mean spirited this morning – I’m guessing Mattel figured out how to make money by having more inclusive choices?

    • ME says:

      It’s always about money. It’s not like they just realized in the year 2020 that women other than able bodied, tall, skinny, white, blonde, with blue eyes exist.

    • Ashley says:

      I feel like a lot of people forget that Barbie has always been 1st in making girls feel better about themselves. Their career barbies were made far before women in the workplace were normal making them astronauts and engineers and nurses and sign language teachers, etc.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      Mattel is a business. There’s nothing wrong with being a business. They wouldn’t release these dolls if they didn’t think there was a market. Business can, once in a while, make money and do the right thing at the same time. Non-profits and small toy makers don’t have the money to make these dolls. These dolls mean a great deal to children. I wish they were there when I was growing up.

      My husband uses a hearing aid. It means something even to him, an older fella to know there’s an American Girl doll who “looks like him.” My daughter might have chosen it when she was young, because it “looked like daddy.” It’s normalizing and healthy and worth celebrating.

      I’ll suspend cynicism over this one except to note that Barbie’s still real skinny.

    • Mich says:

      Who cares if they make money? Why shouldn’t they? That vitiligo doll will mean THE WORLD to children living with the condition. I developed quite aggressive vitiligo in my early 40s and belong to some private facebook ‘support’ groups. The vitiligo doll (or one similar) must already be out because parents have posted pics of their kids with it. The joy is real.

  3. lemonylips says:

    I loved playing with Barbie as a kid. Seeing this makes me wanna get myself one again. This is great!

  4. grumpyterrier says:

    Can they make a barbie with cankles so I don’t feel left out? :(

    • JennyJenny says:

      LOL LOL

    • ME says:

      LOL come on now, we all know Barbie doesn’t have ankles !

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      Where is post-menopausal Barbie?

      • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

        OMG lmao @ post menopausal Barbie! I can’t even imagine little ones playing with that!

        But kudos for doing this. I don’t care about the company, we all know it’s a lucrative decision, but in 60 years, children have these options? Amazing. If money is the key here, can we offer Americans incentives to be kind, generous, tolerant and all-inclusive? Can we please? Can we bribe them to read particular pieces of literature, summarize and send in for benefits? At this particular juncture in this country, I’m ready for crazy ideas lol. Let’s pay for well-grounded and well-informed.

      • Gingerbee says:

        This is for children, why would they make a post menopausal doll.

      • Who ARE These People? says:

        I was joking in my post-menopausal woman way!

      • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

        I’m with you Who. In my menopausal way.

  5. sassbr says:

    I just also wish they could bring quality back to the doll. They are very very cheaply made. I pick up my niece’s Barbies now and weigh it against Barbies from our childhood that we kept, and the decline is downright embarrassing-easily the old Barbies weigh about half a pound more. I would love if they made all these diverse beautiful Barbies the same way they made them back then.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      Everything is made more cheaply now — clothes, cars, toys, furniture — “don’t get me started.”

    • Originaltessa says:

      Yes, they’re terrible. The hair is fuzzy and impossible to brush. The body is not the nice heavy rubbery plastic we used to have, it’s almost hard and hollow. Not the same at all.

  6. Allie says:

    I am waiting for acne barbie.

  7. Gingerbee says:

    Mattel is late. A black owned company already did this.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      Great to hear.

      Mattel has the promotional muscle, the branding, distribution channels and the shelf space.

      Back in the day, we had to locate small suppliers to find dolls with Chinese features but it still meant something when the big suppliers of the world’s most famous dolls (Barbie, American Girl) came out with something (and something not only Mulan), positioning it in the mainstream.

      It’s all good.

  8. lucy2 says:

    I had a lot of Barbies as a kid, mostly inherited from an aunt, and I never liked that they all looked so much alike. So many long haired blondes, but then was thrilled when they came out with Barbie and the Rockers, who had a brunette doll, a red haired doll, and a black doll. They were my favorite group, because they were all different, and made the elaborate scenarios my friends and I concocted much more fun.

    I can’t even imagine how happy and included these new dolls will make so many kids feel. I hope with Mattel’s reach they are available far and wide.

  9. Baldy1202 says:

    I have alopecia areata and I’m so excited about Mattel having a bald Barbie. I’m sure a component of this is marketing to make more money by having dolls that appeal to more people. But, in the case of alopecia Barbie, it is only available through the National Alopecia Areata Foundation and is not available for purchase. I think it’s great that Mattel is supplying NAAF with the dolls to distribute to kids with alopecia.

  10. mew says:

    Still no fat barbie?

    • Kristina says:

      There have been larger-bodied barbies for a long time! My daughter got a princess one for her bday from a friend.

  11. Bread and Circuses says:

    About 20 years ago, Mattel was really leaning hard into “A zillion different types of highly-expensive, collectible Barbies”.

    I’m really loving them now leaning hard into “A zillion different types of humans, presented as Barbies”.

  12. BeanieBean says:

    I only just noticed, they’re all in sneakers! No more point toes & high heels! And the one at the far right is just super cute.